“Clean Meat” Is Catching On: A Reflection on Nomenclature
At GFI, our main reason for using the phrase “clean meat” is as a nod to clean energy. Clean energy is energy that is better for the environment; clean meat is meat that is better for the environment.

Most of the companies working to commercialize the technology now call their product clean meat. JUST, SuperMeat, Aleph, and more are on the “clean meat” bandwagon. So too the Modern Agriculture Foundation, Cellular Agriculture Society, and GFI – three nonprofits that promote clean meat.

The Media and Public Have Caught on
A search on Meltwater media monitoring showed that “clean meat” mentions went from 207 in 2016 (when the phrase was coined) to 2,391 in 2017. In the same period, “cultured meat” mentions went from 827 to 1,680. For the mathy readers, this means clean meat had 42% more mentions than cultured meat in 2017, and mentions of clean meat rose by 1155% in just a year.

As just a few examples:

The public is on board, too. In June 2017, “clean meat” (blue line in the graph above) overtook “cultured meat” (yellow) in Google search (and both are above “lab-grown,” red). It has remained the preferred term ever since. Famed entrepreneur Richard Branson has blogged about clean meat, declaring in a piece headlined “Clean meat is the future of meat” that “in the future clean and plant-based meat will become the norm.”

Some have suggested that cultured meat remain a term of art for scientists working on the technology. Although we certainly don’t mind if scientists continue to use that phrase, GFI did publish in the peer-reviewed Biochemical Engineering Journal a piece titled “Opportunities for applying biomedical production and manufacturing methods to the development of the clean meat industry.” The editors of the journal were happy to publish our article about clean meat, as were the editors of Food Technology and the Encyclopedia of Food Chemistry.

In short, clean meat is an accurate term that is preferred by most in the industry, the media, and the interested public.

A Refresher on Why Clean Meat is Our Preferred Term
What should we call meat grown outside of an animal? “Meat” is clearly important, because it is meat all the way down to to the cellular level – animal muscle, fat, and connective tissue cells.

“Lab-grown” is just wrong. At scale, clean meat will be produced in a clean facility similar to a brewery. New types of beer are developed in test labs, but beer isn’t “lab-brewed.” All processed food begins in a food lab, but we don’t call Cheerios “lab-created Cheerios.”

The term “cultured meat” is preferred by some, but at GFI, we have found that even top food scientists at the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) conference thought “cultured meat” referred to the methods used to make yogurt, sauerkraut, and other cultured foods. Of course, those culturing processes have nothing to do with how meat is produced outside of an animal. “Cultured” is especially confusing when it comes to fish or other seafood, where “cultured fish” already refers to farmed fish raised via aquaculture (Google search for “cultured fish”).

“Clean meat” has also been tested against “cultured meat” in consumer research. In all four studies of which we are aware, clean meat was the clear winner.

At GFI, we did not start out wanting to use “clean” over “cultured.” Instead, we were convinced by a combination of these two factors: 1. Our experience at the IFT conference and other similar situations where people were confused by “cultured,” and 2. The consumer research.

We know that for various reasons, some people may continue saying “lab-grown” or “cultured.” That’s fine, of course. We just want everyone to understand why we prefer and advocate a shift to talking about “clean meat.”

We have been deeply gratified by the degree to which “clean meat” has caught on with most of the companies, nonprofits, the media, and the general public.

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